In the cheery yellow Lions Club building at the Tanana Valley Fairgrounds, a small group of crafters carefully laid out their handmade goods next to jewels contributed by senior center members to help support a North Pole staple: Santa’s Senior Center. Shoppers perused the wares while listening to holiday music and the light happy chatter of volunteers and vendors. The event, called Santa’s Crafts Extravaganza and Vintage Jewelry Sale, was held Saturday. It was a tribute to the upcoming holidays, the legacy of crafting and the community engendered by the center.

The senior center held the center of the room with a horse-shoe configuration of tables. On one side was vintage jewelry, laid out and sparkling in every style. On the other were handmade items that can be regularly found in the center’s gift shop: woodwork, crocheted and knit accessories and sewn kitchen items.

Santa’s Senior Center is an important part of the daily lives of many of those in attendance at Saturday’s sale. The center hosts regular exercise classes, potlucks and a free monthly bingo night.

The jewelry in the center of the room was donated by members of the center. According volunteer Brenda Sadler, there was no need to put out a call for donations. Members got word and gave enough of their necklaces, bracelets and brooches to cover the tables with glittering trinkets. The proceeds from this part of the sale went entirely to the senior center.

Most of the proceeds from the gift shop items go back to their creators, but 15% is given to the center. The gift shop is open from 11 am.-3 p.m. Monday through Friday. 

Ten vendors were in attendance, not including the senior center’s tables. Several of the vendors are involved with the senior center, but the 17-Mile Homemakers and the Friends of the North Pole Library were also represented.

Goldie Southwood, president of the Santa’s Senior Center board, said the sale was an important fundraiser, because the center had to pay $7,000 in taxes for the use of their building last year.

She hopes that next year, the center will qualify for an exemption because it owns the building, rather than renting it.

James “Hunter” Hunter cooked and served lunch for the event. Hunter is on the center’s board and cooks for many of their events. His wife, Sharron Hunter, also volunteers for the senior center and helped put Saturday’s event together.

Crochet was popular in the tent and was represented on several tables. Barbara Walters made crocheted stuffed animals, bags and toys. She learned to crochet at 8 years old.

“I love to teach, I love to create. I love the whole process of picking the colors and maybe even the pattern and then just watching it grow,” Walters said. 

Ellie Herrera made crocheted bags out of recycled plastic grocery sacks. She said the bags were particularly hardy, making a disposable item into something that could be reused for a long time. Herrera, who is 88, said she learned to crochet at 8 years old and kept it up. She also displayed some of her painted items.

Sharon Kubacki brought in dozens of crocheted mittens, slippers and hot pads. She says she’s been crocheting for 30 years. “It keeps me occupied,” she said. “It keeps me out of trouble.”

Kubacki was a past president of the senior center board and frequently volunteers there. She also sells her items in the gift shop. She enjoys the craft fairs because, she said, “You meet a lot of nice people.

“That’s what I like. I’m a people person.”

Jennie Palazzo, the secretary of senior center board, joined her friend Kubacki at her table. She said the craft fair was going well and that she loved the senior center. It gave her a chance to connect with the community

“It’s just been wonderful. Everybody has been so nice,” Palazzo said, stating that she didn’t know anyone in Alaska prior to moving here several years ago. The center gave her a place to make friends.

On the right side of the room, a set of tables held both diamond art and more crocheted items. The two tables were rented by Phoenix Thompson and her parents, Michelle and Nick Vedder.

Thompson made a variety of crocheted items. She’s 21, and this is her first year selling what she makes. She said she began crocheting at 12, and was taught by her mother.

“I was just tired of things just stockpiling,” Thompson said, “So I said, ‘You know what? Let’s share it.’”

Vedder began doing “diamond art” — made by sticking small plastic gems to a surface to make a sort of pixelated picture — since Christmas. She makes pictures, necklaces and keychains. Her husband, Nick, helps to construct the frames, saying he’s done a little woodworking and that “45-degree angles aren’t that hard.”

Contact staff writer Cheryl Upshaw at 459-7572 or find her on Twitter @FDNMcity.